Preview: Houston Dash at Chicago Red Stars


The Houston Dash head to Chicago this weekend in search of the second win in franchise history. They bring with them Nina Burger, the newly signed Austrian forward who practiced with the team all week. Both teams have struggled to score goals this season and consequently sit near the bottom of the table.

Match Information

Date: Sunday May 11, 2014

Time: 5pm CST

Live Stream: YouTube

The Red Stars have made some additions of their own in the past week. On Monday they announced the signing of New Zealand’s captain, defender Abby Erceg. Thursday they dipped into the Oceania region again in signing Australian co-captain, Emily Van Egmond, who plays in the midfield.

Erceg is not expected to arrive at the club until their May 23rd match in Houston against the Dash. Van Egmond will not be a participant this weekend as well as she begins national team play with Australia in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup next week.

This match presents an opportunity for revenge for two Houston Dash players; forward Ella Masar was left unprotected by the Red Stars in the Expansion Draft and was selected by Houston in the 5th spot overall. Captain and keeper Erin McLeod was acquired in trade from Chicago for forward Melissa Tancredi.

The Teams

Chicago Red Stars (1-2-1), 4 points, 7th Place

Jun 16, 2013; Overland Park, KS, USA; Chicago Red Stars mid Lori Chalupny (17) moves the ball downfield during the first half of the match against FC Kansas City at Shawnee Mission District Stadium. The Chicago Red Stars won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Stars have been relatively toothless offensively this season, netting only two goals through four matches. They are likely to continue to struggle offensively until Christen Press (Champions League with Tyresö) joins up and Tancredi (chiropractor school) settles in with the team.

Tancredi came on as a late substitute for Canada against the United States on Thursday and is available to play for Chicago for the first time this season.

What Chicago has lacked in offense they have made up for on defense, conceding only three times thus far this season and only once from the run of play (two penalties). Karin LeBlanc was added in the off-season from Portland to replace McLeod in goal. She is an experienced keeper and is difficult to beat.

Masar described her former team following practice on Friday:

"They’re gonna be like us. They’re gonna fight, they’re gonna battle. Last year we didn’t always have everything connected but we knew that we’d come out and be the team that hits hard and gets stuck in and that’s what we’ll (the Dash) bring as well. So, I think it’s gonna be a grinding game."

Dash Head Coach Randy Waldrum sees Chicago as a more physical and less finesse based team as well:

"Chicago is, if not the most, one of the most physical teams in the league."

The Red Stars have tended to play in a 3-5-2 at home this season and 4-4-2 when on the road. With Erceg and Van Egmond not yet with the team, they’ll likely continue to set out in a 3-5-2 which could present problems for the Dash midfield. Against FC Kansas City, the Dash struggled with moving the ball out of the back and up to the forwards when faced with five in the midfield.

The Red Stars have quality players available in the midfield; notably Lori Chalupny as well as 1st round draft picks Vanessa DiBernardo and Julie Johnston. If the Red Stars find ways to score goals against the Dash, at this stage of the season it looks more likely that they’ll come from the midfield than from forwards Jennifer Hoy or Adriana Leon. Tancredi adds a threat but may not yet be in sync with her new teammates.

Houston Dash (1-3-0), 3 points, 8th Place

The Dash will be a different team this week from the first four matches of the season due to a combination of new additions and suspension. Osinachi Ohale, a mainstay of the back line so far this season, misses out following her red card against FC Kansas City last week. Fortunately Holly Hein is expected to play this week, so the Dash again will have only one backup in the center of the defense.

The focus of practice this week was shoring up the back line after a disastrous showing against Kansas City. As Coach Waldrum put it on Friday following practice:

"I’m going to be disappointed if that (the defense) is not better when we get to Chicago on Sunday for the game."

Who will start alongside Hein is a bit of a mystery. A week ago it was Marissa Diggs in place of Hein with Kika Toulouse starting at left back in place of Nikki Washington who was traded to Boston. Diggs had a rough debut while Toulouse was a bit more solid. We could see the players flip-flop positions or a different option in the middle.

Meisterschaftsspiel der ÖFB Frauen Bundesliga am 05.10.2013 NÖSV Neulengbach – USC Landhaus 7:0. Courtesy of SV Neulengbach

Kaylyn Kyle should make her second start with the Dash in the midfield. Unfortunately, national team duty in mid-week meant that she has not the opportunity to gel further with her new teammates following a difficult outing last week.

The real intrigue surrounds new signing Nina Burger, the goal scoring Austrian. She showed well over the course of the week in practice. Her ability in front of the net is not in doubt, her ability to hold up against the physical and athletic nature of NWSL is. Chicago’s physical style of play will serve as a good test and initiation to NWSL for Burger.

The player to watch for the Dash is Masar, who is fired up to see family and to face the team that saw her as surplus to requirements and consequently left her unprotected in the Expansion Draft:

"This game means a lot to me and that is all I can really say about that."

The key for the Dash will be doing a better job of getting the ball to their forwards in space than they did against FC Kansas City. Chicago has done a good job of bottling up the midfield in their matches this season. If the Dash play the same way they did last weekend, they may once again find themselves moving backwards and conceding possession often in the midfield which, in turn, will create added pressure on the back line.

Lindsay Elston will miss out on the match after re-injuring a high ankle sprain mid-week in practice. She will travel with the side, however. Erin McLeod is listed as questionable following national team duty on Thursday.


Both teams will fight hard, but an Ella Masar with a little added incentive to go hard is a scary prospect. She will make the difference as the Dash win 1-0.

Injury Report

Chicago: Taryn Hemmings (out)

Houston: Lauren Sesselmann (out), Brittany Bock (out), Lindsay Elston (out), Erin McLeod (questionable), Bianca Henninger (probable)

Discipline Report

Chicago: None

Houston: Osinachi Ohale

Probable Lineups

Chicago: GK – LeBlanc; Def – Wenino, Stitch, Quon; Mid – Santacaterina, Johnston, Mautz, DiBernardo, Chalupny; Fwd – Hoy, Leon

Houston: GK – McLeod; Def – Romero, Toulouse, Hein, Diggs; Mid – Edwards, Kyle, Jackson; Fwd – Burger, Masar, Ohai

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